Special Needs

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99 Sensory Activities for Any Child

All kids can be affected by sensory processing issues. Certain situations just make them freak. So it makes sense that exposing kids to a variety of sensory activities in a calm, playful manner can alleviate some of these problems.

In that spirit, we've put together this list of 99 sensory activities for any child. Though these activities involve sensory stimulation, they are great all-around activities for any child, from toddlers on up. Some are even good for babies. These sensory activities also can help you. My kids' school's occupational therapist once gave a seminar to parents on sensory balance and activities for maintaining a sensory-savvy schedule. I now realize my engine tends to run too low and I need to work harder at energizing myself throughout the day. I have incorporated some of these activities to keep my own energy up.

For more tips on dealing with sensory issues, see our posts on sensory savvy-snacks and OT-recommended toys.

Sensory Gyms in Brooklyn: 8 Spots for Children's Physical Therapy

We've written about sensory activities before, and while there are plenty of things your kids can do at home, sometimes you want an expert to address certain issues. That's when you might need a sensory gym, one of those highly specialized (and fun) spaces where occupational and physical therapists help kids. Children work on gross and fine motor skills, core strength, neurodevelopmental delays, balance, coordination, and sensory integration, but the activities are usually so engaging they just think they're having a great time.

Finding a sensory gym that's a good fit for your child can be a challenge. Once you do, snagging a great therapist and a decent time slot usually involves multiple wait lists (and relentlessly checking in on those wait lists) and a willingness to remain flexible about scheduling. Fortunately for Brooklyn families, the borough has a number of well-equipped sensory gyms staffed by accomplished therapists.

Trying to navigate NYC's special education services and programs? Check out our Special Needs Guide for NYC families.

Inclusive Services at BPL: Free Special Needs Program at the Library

Ever since we moved to southern Brooklyn from the Upper West Side, I've been on the hunt to replace all of the amazing special needs activities we had access to in Manhattan with only limited success. That's why I was really excited to stumble across the FREE Inclusive Services at the Brooklyn Public Library program.

The program, formerly known as The Child's Places, takes place at five borough branches and is a lot more than books. The activities, geared toward children with special needs ages newborn to teen, include reading, playing and clubs where participants engage in a variety of enriching hands-on activities. True to their name, the offerings are inclusive, which means you can bring siblings of all abilities. So no more schlepping to Manhattan when looking for FREE fun for my special needs tween.

9 Sensory Gyms for Children's Physical Therapy in Manhattan

Living in a city as diverse as New York means that many services are right at our fingertips, including expert physical, occupational, sensory and speech therapists who specialize in children. Whether your child is facing a lifetime of therapy due to disability, or is working to overcome a developmental delay or other issue, the city's sensory gyms and therapists can help.

Manhattan has a bunch of amazing sensory gyms that offer fun, safe environments for children to work on their core strength, balance, fine motor skills, language, sensory integration, behavior, attention and social interaction skills. The bad news? There are so many options that picking the best sensory gym for your child’s particular needs may feel like finding a needle in a haystack. We've rounded up nine top gyms to get you started. This list is by no means comprehensive, but as the mom to a tween with special needs who's been to quite a few of these spots, I believe these nine are a great place to start.

Check out our special needs and disability guide for more crucial info on resources and services for NYC families.

Sensory Gym for Children with Disabilities Opens in Queens

Extreme Kids & Crew, a mom-founded nonprofit, just opened its third NYC sensory gym for children with disabilities and its first outpost in Queens. We've visited its Brooklyn play spaces in Crown Heights and Red Hook in the past, so we were excited to see its latest, Ridgewood Space, in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens, which straddles Brooklyn and is often touted as the next hot NYC nabe.

The goal of the Brooklyn-based nonprofit is to provide supportive spaces for children with disabilities and their families to play and connect. The new Ridgewood spot is located in P.S. 71 elementary school, and offers places to swing, slide, build and just chill out. The bubble machine particularly caught our eye.

The borough seems to be adding more and more indoor play spaces for kids, including Sabrina's and Shastye last year, and we're happy to welcome Extreme Kids & Crew to the fold. Read on for our full review.

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